Each government department will have to adopt and implement specific climate change actions and targets in its own area of responsibility under a new policy initiative to be brought to the Cabinet on Monday.
As EU pressure increases over the inability to meet legal targets to reduce carbon emissions, Climate Action and Environment Minister Richard Bruton must seek Cabinet approval for a "whole government" plan that spreads the responsibility for all departments.
The move is understood as a response to the acceptance that climate change is now a very big problem for a department to ensure that the level of decarbonisation required in the economy and across society is achieved.
Commenting on Ireland's climate change performance over the weekend, Bruton said he wanted the state to be "a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower."
"This will require a significant change in government," he said.
The plan would define actions to be taken in each department and state body "to stimulate the change of steps we need to achieve in all sectors of our society," he said.
Nine years ago, Ireland received a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 20 percent below 2020 by 2020. The state has been consistently behind schedule in achieving these targets and is focused on reducing its emissions by less than of 1 percent in 2020.
EU targets for 2030 include a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Experts in climate and energy estimate that Ireland will face EU fines of hundreds of millions of euros for failing to meet targets, but the government insists the penalties will not be as great.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in his speech to Fine Gael Ardfheis that in the transition from a latecomer to climate change to a global leader, the state would meet its 2030 goals in reducing carbon emissions and adopting renewable energy. He said Sunday that the government is working to raise carbon taxes with the goal of "returning it to people on tax credits" as a way to promote behavioral change.
Bruton said there is no Irish sector on track to meet its carbon reduction targets, so "it's not a matter of isolating individual sectors. Every industry needs to make a significant effort. "
Away from the target
The minister said climate action is an area where the government "needs a major step forward," as it "is far from reaching the commitments we have made."
Referring to the proposed new approach, he added: "I need the support of colleagues and the supervision of the Taoiseach department to ensure that we can fulfill the commitments we have made.
"By 2020 we will not have a huge deficit, but in the long run, if we can not adapt now, we will see an increasing gap and by 2030 it will be very serious and beyond. . . The [emissions] the numbers are growing in energy, in transportation, in agriculture. These are the big industries. The industry is also ready to grow. "
The government has a year-end deadline to draft a national energy and climate plan for the EU on the policy models that the state is adopting.
"It is in December 2019 that we have to have a detailed strategy with all the policy instruments implemented," said the minister. "We need, between now and the end of next year, to build this road map that includes the detailed policy tools we are going to use."
A regulatory approach was under consideration, but the minister said he wanted to allow time for companies and homeowners to plan rather than introduce sudden changes.